Triathlon tips

Triathlon, Duathlon and Multi-sport events are about combining events into one performance. With that in mind, being good at these sports means effectively combining the events into one, and making good transitions from one event to another. In most cases, it is also an ‘individual’ sport. This means that you often need to look after yourself out on the course. Any bike repairs and nutrition need to be taken care of by your (with the assistance of any aid stations).

Plan your transitions

When you race, you want your transitions to be as smooth as possible. You do not want to come into transition and run around wondering what to do next. Prior to your race you should plan out how you are going to do your transitions, so when you arrive at transition, you know what and how you are going to do.

  • What are you actually going to do? For example: take your wetsuit off, put a bum bag on, put your helmet on, put shoes on, etc.
  • What order are you going to do things in? Some times the order can be predetermined by the race rules (e.g. put helmet on before un-racking bike.), other tasks need to be ordered so that they can all be performed quickly and smoothly.
  • How are you actually going to do things? For example; what side of your bike will you mount, what is the best way to put your shoes on, what tasks can you do while running through transition, etc.
  • How are you going to set your transition up? How limited is your space? Do you need to pack bags for your gear (such as in Ironman, and when there are split transitions)? You want things to be set up in the order that you are going to use them. For example your sox’s should be on top of your shoes (unless you are putting your sox’s over your shoes!).

Practice Transitions.

If you want to get better at transitions – practice them. Less haste and more speed is usually what is required. This is particularly so for shorter events. A few hours practicing your transitions will probably save you more time than a few more hours of run training (or another discipline).

In longer events, it may in fact be beneficial to take a little more time, and make sure everything is done correctly. Sit down, have a drink, change clothes, etc. You may in fact lose far more time later in the race if you forget you food!

Check your Gear works.

Often athletes have different race gear to what they use in training (race wheels, racing flats etc). It pays to check that everything works as you expect – before the big day. There is nothing worse than starting your race and then remembering that you were suppose to fix something after the last race (that little hole in the bottom of the boat, that loose bottom bracket etc).

Getting your nutrition right.

This relates more to longer events, but it is true in shorter events as well. You need to plan what and when you are going to eat and drink. You also need to make adjustments for environmental conditions. If it is hotter, you will need to drink more, and if it is colder you may have to eat more.

In longer events, it pays to set yourself an eating and drinking schedule, and stick to it! Perhaps set your count down timer to beep every 20min, to remind you to eat and/or drink.

What is available in the race? Of course you need to train on products that you intend to use in the race, particularly when relying on aid station food. You may find that what is provided in the event disagrees with you. In this case, you will have to arrange alternatives, such as extensive use of any special needs stations. If you are following this scenario, then you cannot afford to miss your special needs pick up – and be prepared to stop or return for your special needs. Two minutes getting your special needs may save you 20minutes of walking later in the event.

Expecting the unexpected.

In longer events, the chance of something going wrong is far greater. In fact, in events such as Ironman, it is likely that something will go wrong. It maybe something quite small, or something relatively major. When it does happen you need to be prepared.

Common things that are going to happen at some stage include; flat tires, other mechanical incidence, disagreement with food and/or water, and blisters and/or chaffing. You can minimize your risk with some preventative measures, but at some time, you are going to have to deal with the unexpected. Preparing for the unexpected. You should make sure that you know how to change a tire, and perform other basic mechanical repairs. You also need to make a decision before the race about things like this. If finishing is a high priority, then you may carry more spares and tools. If speed is of the essence, and you do not mind a dnf next to your name, then you maybe prepared to risk not carrying that extra spare tire.

To help minimize unwanted ‘event’ ruining your day, take a few preventative measures. These include:

  • Get your bike serviced, and check it out thoroughly yourself.
  • Practice in training, using what you will in race day. This includes both equipment and nutrition.
  • Ensure you know basic repair operations that you may need on race day.
  • Know the course. You don’t want to take a wrong turn or encounter an unexpected ‘mountain’.

If something does go wrong on the big day, don’t panic. If you stay relaxed, and concentrate on the job at hand (that you have practiced), you will be back in action far quicker than if you stand around getting upset about it.

Tricks of the trade…

Finally a few little tips you may not have thought of: ·

  • Vaseline/tape any areas that are prone to rubbing, chaffing or blisters. Tape your feet the night before where they are prone to blisters (eg toes). This is particularly useful in longer events, such as ironman. The tape sticks better if you put it on the night before. The neck is often attacked viscously by some wetsuits, and tapping nipples can prevent some considerable discomfort in the run. ·
  • Sort out large objects to sight on in the swim before the race (often the swim buoys are nowhere to be seen!). Also check what the tides are doing. Some times there can be tidal assistance (or otherwise) with different swim lines. This is obviously also true in a kayak, with deciding between stronger river flow and the shortest route. · Decide what you are wearing under your wetsuit. If speed is of the essence, wear everything you are going to bike in under your wetsuit (you may want to check that your favorite race top does not cut you to bits while your are swimming in it though. ·
  • Are you going to wear a wetsuit in very short events? For a swim that is only a few hundred meters long, it maybe quicker to swim without a wetsuit, when your transition time is considered. If cold really is a factor, or you swim significantly faster with your wet suit on – then wear it (you may bike slower if you are really cold from the swim!). Conversely, if you are racing in the heat, and wetsuits are allowed, overheating in the swim may result in a slower bike time. ·
  • Re-glue your tires (tubulars) and check for any cuts in your tires. Check there is glue on your spare tire, and that if you have a deep rim, that you have a valve extension on your spare (or a long valve spare inner tube). If you do get a flat tire, you don’t want to have to take a valve extension of your flat tire and put it on your spare as well. ·
  • Make a list of things to remember. Build up a list over time of things you need to take to races. You can then check them off as you pack your gear. It is often little things that you forget – such as valve extensions, that you only use when you race.

I hope this helps you put all that training to use on the big day(s)!